Saturday, February 06, 2010

Through the silver screen darkly

Though movies, or any narrative storytelling, seek to portray life, they differ from life thus: In movies, the bad guys are easily far more believable and intriguing in their badness than the good guys are in their goodness. Unlike the good guys who need to be in one way or another coerced into taking the side of good, bad guys are bad because they just are.*

Like the antagonists in our own experiences, we love to hate them and hate to love them. But in movies we're also glad that they are there standing between the good guy, supposedly an onscreen proxy of ourselves, and what he wants. This almost never happens in life. Good movies take care of that under two hours and open up a window to an instant insight we desire but rarely encounter in life. It is in this inversion of reality, by rationalizing the human experience through fiction, that stories are, and must be, told.

* You might take exception to the theory and refer to stories like Hannibal Rising, where a sort of origin story is told of the bad guy. But for all intents and purposed of the author(s) Hannibal Lecter is the "good guy" in that he is the sympathetic character through, more or less, whose point of view this particular story is told, therefore rendering the bad guy theory inapplicable to him in this instance.

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